Chapter 6, “Woe to Those Who Harm,” is now available as a free download. The chapter argues that given evil, a full defence of the image of God in man, especially of the vulnerable, requires an eternal hell.
The chapter begins,
We live in a world in which many ideas that were formerly presupposed about human life and society are being overturned. As G. K. Chesterton notes cheekily in Orthodoxy, however, human evil is stubbornly undeniable. It is both true and appalling that there are men in the world who are able to derive happiness from hurting animals. This fact is serious enough to prove Chesterton’s point. It is trivial enough, perhaps, to form the basis of a witticism. What remains unsaid, and infinitely more sober, is that there are people who are able to derive happiness from hurting other people.
Evil is not a theory. It was paraded brazenly across the world’s stage in the great wars of the twentieth century, and has been recently seen in the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS and Boko Haram. From rape and abuse, to enslavement and degradation, mankind is capable of shocking and diverse evils. Words like “wrong” or “error” simply do not convey either the depth of harm to the victims of evil or the malignity of those who perpetrate it. Daniel M. Haybron, Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, writes,
“We do not employ the language of evil as freely as our forbears did. But call Hitler or the Holocaust evil and you are unlikely to arouse much disagreement. On the contrary: you will have better luck generating dissent if you refer to Hitler or the Holocaust merely as bad or wrong: “Hitler was a bad person, and what he did was wrong.” As is often noted, such tepid language seems terribly inadequate to the moral gravity of this subject matter. Prefix your adjectives with as many ‘verys’ as you like; you still fall short. Only ‘evil’, it seems, will do.”
While the reality of evil is a concept every philosopher must account for in his worldview, evil is not primarily a philosophical problem but a moral and personal one. Many readers of this book would certainly name things done to them, or perhaps by them, as evil, knowing that no other language could adequately capture the moral force of these actions. Evil seems to touch us all, one way or another. It is strong and surprising, monstrous and malevolent. It is an ocean, irresistibly overpowering helpless victims who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is a raider, appearing on the horizon without warning, its flag of death promising rape and ravage. It is a kraken, its powerful tentacles impersonally and indiscriminately crushing rich and poor, young and old, noble and common alike.
The twisted tyranny of human evil prompts cries for deliverance, as in the example of David:
“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see! You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah.” (Ps 59:1–5)
“Deliver me from those who work evil.” This cry for justice is a universal one. Is there a single person in all of human history who has not called out to his father, his king, or his gods to come to his aid at one time or another? An important truth concerning hell is that God hears. He hears, sees, and rouses Himself to avenge the oppressed. Hell is good because it communicates and secures the value of human life. Although it may seem highly counterintuitive to the western and modern mind, God cannot properly be said to care for mankind if there is no hell. Hell is God’s vengeance upon those who have harmed His creatures.